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June 21st

We got to Dusseldorf on time. The airport was really confusing! There were no departure tables, no information on where to find our connecting flight, only signs pointing to transfers A, B, and C. Not knowing which applied to us, we followed everybody else and got through the passport check. Next we found ourselves in the baggage claim area. I figured we will have to get our bags and go through customs as happened on my last trip to Europe, but this wasn't the case. Our bags were checked all the way to Munich. Sweet! The Munich airport was much nicer (in fact, the Munich airport is considered the best airport in Europe). The airport is located some 40 minutes from the city, but is connected with downtown via a regular S1 line. We hopped on the train, and headed down to the main Bahnhof (train station)

We are staying in the Wombat, a hostel right across the street from the station. The place is huge! Next to the reception is a winter garden - lounge with mats for sleeping. The steps leading to the many levels of the hostel are to the right, and a skylight forms the ceiling. The garden had some 15 mats and all were occupied by deeply sleeping teenagers and young folks. Roommates of loud snorers? The hostel also has a bar, which in the morning serves buffet breakfast. The room has a bathroom with shower. There are no roommates around. We went to Marienplatz and ate in the Augustiner pub on Bayerstrasse. Next we just bummed around. This was Leslie's first time in Europe and she was absolutely amazed by the architecture. We made it to the river Isar, which flows from Austrian Alps through Munich before merging with the Danube in the Bavarian Forest. Next we walked through Hofbrauhaus. It is probably the most famous of all German beerhalls. It dates bak all the way to 1607. One of it's more infamous claims to fame is the fact it is the earliest places where Hitler publicly outlined his ideology, in a meeting held in 1920. Hofbrauhaus is popular with tourists, and as expected, was completely packed. An oompah band was playing traditional Bavarian music.

Our first liter beer Mass mugs on a beautiful summer day in Munich

At the Marienplatz

Frauenkirche, Munich's most famous cathedral. It dates back to the 15th century.

A gargoyle of sorts and the Neues Rathaus or New City Hall

Collection of random Munich characters

We then walked down to the river and later took a stroll through the Hofbrauhaus

June 22nd

Today was a long day! It started with a breakfast at the hostel. €3.50 for self-serve bar with bread, rolls, cheese, salami. With stomach full, we hopped on S-bahn 17 to Nymphenburg (map). The public transport in Munich consists of "S" (Stadtschnellbahn, rapid city transport, but really referring to "street") and "U" (Untergrundbahn for underground train) line. Nymphenburg, a beautiful Baroque palace, served as residence for rulers of Bavaria. It's quite an amazing place! The palace is located behind a picturesque creek. However, the real beauty is apparent only after entering the building. Behind the palace is a huge garden with a central flower bed. It's surrounded by a forest with paths leading to a big lake with a gazebo. The families that lived here really enjoyed the nature!

From the palace we took a walk to the Hirsch biergarten. It's the largest outdoor beerhall in Europe. There we had beer (of course!) and crepes. I very much liked this place. It's a large park, meadow with surrounding trees really. On one side you will find enough benches to seat 5000 people (men mostly) drinking beer. The rest of the park was occupied by families with kids riding bikes, flying kites, or just enjoying the sun. There is also an enclosed area providing home to many spotted deer. Drinking in public? With kids around?!!! Well, in fact I very much like this system. I wish there wasn't so much stigma against public beer drinking in the States. Don't get me wrong. I don't endorse public intoxication. But, rather than having a dad drink his beer in front of a TV with the kid stuck inside playing Wii, here you have the whole family getting some fresh air.

From the beer garden we walked to Laim, the nearest train station. There we hopped on S1 (the same line going to the airport) and took it to the village of Oberschleissheim. This is where Schloss Schleissheim is located. This palace is actually a complex of three buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century. It served as the summer residence for the Bavarian kings. It has an even bigger garden! After a stroll through the greens and past the flower beds we came back to the city. This time we took the subway, the U-line. We got off at the Universität station and checked out the campus of Ludwig Maximilian University. It is the highest ranked university in Germany. We also had lunch here. We then headed to Englischer Garten, a large park in the center of Munich. It is in fact so large that it is bigger than New York's Central Park. The garden is built in the style known as "English Garden", hence the name. This style, which is also seen in the palaces we have visited earlier, is characterized by gently rolling meadows surrounded by trees, speckled with lakes, creeks and replicas of classical buildings. It's absolutely beautiful! The beauty is of course also supplemented by the fact that this garden is popular with nudists mostly from the local university. Besides a naked college girl sunbathing we also saw bunch of reggae hippies drumming wildly (fully clothed, thank God!). We visited the Greek temple Monopteros and headed to the Chinese Tower, Chinesischer Turm. Next to the tower is Munich's second largest beer garden. The Euro 2008 soccer playoffs were in full swing, and projectors were setup for the beer lovers to enjoy the games. I believe Spain and Italy were playing on this night. Merry after few drinks, we took a bus back to Alegery U-bahn stop and then U-bahn all the way back to the hostel. I slept really well that night. A fat guy in our room was supposedly snoring both nights but I didn't hear him either night. Supposedly he was also farting. I didn't hear that either. Hopefully Leslie wasn't referring to me!

Nymphenburg Palace

Bridge leading up to the palace

Beautiful garden forming the backyard of Nymphenburg Palace. This is so much better that having a large TV in your living room!

Statues in the garden

Stroll through the woods to a lake and a gazebo

At the Hiersch biergarten

Second palace of the day: Schloss Schleissheim

The garden

Flower bed in the garden. The Wittelsbachs definitely loved gardens!

Backyard of Palace Schleissheim

One of the several statues on the backside of the entrance.

Englisher Garten, place of nudists, drum beating hippies and the Monopteros

We had more beer at the Chinese Tower and then headed back to the hostel

June 23rd

Today we went to Neuschwanstein. This fairy tale palace was built in the 19th century by Ludwig II, at a cost which led many people to conclude the king has gone mad. It is now the most photographed building in all of Germany (we contributed). We got up a bit late, and caught the 10:50 train. The ride was really pretty. The land started flat, but soon turned into rolling hills. There were pastures with cows, little villages, mountains on the horizon. Füssen, the town where you get off, was really cute. It's located right in the foothills of the Alps. A bus was waiting by the train station but by the time we got oriented, it had left. Next one came in 40 minutes so we went for a little stroll through town.

One oops we realized later is that instead of buying €19 Bayern tickets we purchased regular train tickets for €40. Not only were these more expensive, they did not include the bus fare. Bus fare is free with the Bayern - Schwangau ticket. The bus takes you to the village of Schwangau. The palace is located on a hill above the village. We got off and followed the path to castle. Les didn't feel well in the morning - allergies acting up - but completely cheered up once we got to the amazing castle. She was pretty disappointed we didn't go on the tour (so was I). We didn't realize how beautiful the castle was until we got to it. Unfortunately, the tickets for the tour have to be purchased at the bottom of the hill so by the time we got there, it was too late to change our minds. So make sure to get yours! But we did walk to Marienbrucke, Mary's Bridge. This bridge is older than the castle itself. It spans a deep gorge with a creek and waterfall underneath. The gorge is so deep, that one tourist, his knees shaking from a panic attack, had to be helped off. But the reason people come here is not to admire the gorge. It's the amazing view of the castle they seek. It's definitely worth the trek!

For lunch we ate Bayern hotdogs. Leslie also got a bierstein, one of those famous German beer mugs with a lid. We got back to Munich at 7pm. We wanted to do more gift shopping, but by the time we got all organized, the clock had struck past the 8pm closing time. We thus walked to Asamkirche, a spectacular rococo-style church. It was also closed but I managed to peak inside through a window. It looked really pretty. Next to the door was a sign stating this is where the Slovak congregation meets. I am happy to report my Slovak people have chosen a very beautiful church for their service. We had coffee and later free wine at the hostel. We have new roommates today: all girls. I had Donner today, kebob sandwich I learned to love during my visit to Florence several years ago.

South Bayern country side

The train station and the town of Füssen

Castle Neuschwanstein

Schloss Hohenschwangau and a restaurant along the path to the castle

Yup, we are at the castle. We are awesome!

Another shot from the castle

Inside the courtyard

The view from Neuschwanstein is absolutely amazing. No wonder Ludwig wanted to build here!

The castle again, from a different angle

Marienbrucke, bridge over a deep gorge leading to a lookout

Picture perfect postcard scenery

Back in Munich. There we spotted the endangered flying jackelope.

Assam Kirche, an ornate gothic church.